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Northeast Columbia fire forces residents out

Monday, March 2, 2009 | 11:27 p.m. CST
Lt. Darren Day of the Boone County Fire Department tells Mercedes Austin, center, and Laurie Estes, right, that it's safe for them and their children to go back into their homes as their neighbor Chelsea Robinson, second from right, listens. Austin and Estes live in the west half of the duplex building on Demaret Drive. No one was injured in the fire.

COLUMBIA — A duplex at 709 Demaret Drive caught fire at about 8:53 p.m. Monday. Twenty-four firemen responded to the incident in northeast Columbia. There were no injuries and the cause of the fire was not immediately known, Division Chief Gale Blomenkamp of the Columbia Fire Department said.

Blomenkamp said the fire started in the back hallway of the duplex. The flames caused moderate damage there and in the room closest to the hallway. The entire house also had heavy smoke damage, Blomenkamp said.

Firefighters had the fire under control in about 30 minutes, he said.

Laurie Estes stood outside with three of her neighbors in the cold while she watched the firefighters control the blaze. She had moved into the duplex — in the unit next door to the one that caught on fire — about a month ago with her friend Mercedes Austin. Estes said the residents in the unit on fire had moved in just a few days before.

“I’m still shaking,” Estes said. “Right around 9 (p.m.), someone knocked on my door and told me there was a fire.”

Estes said she grabbed her daughter and Austin’s daughter and ran them out of the house. Then she went back in to make sure her dogs, Tundra and Poncho, got outside safely.

“I was so nervous,” Estes said.  “I just got the children and dogs out quick. All my money and stuff is still inside.”

A medical unit from Boone Hospital as well as five fire trucks — one from the Columbia Fire Department and four from the Boone County Fire Protection District — were called to the scene. The fire didn’t appear to cause any damage to surrounding houses. An initial investigation went under way immediately after the fire was extinguished, Blomenkamp said.

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